Salans and SNR Denton latest firms to hold merger talks

Salans and SNR Denton are in talks over a potential tie-up that would create a transatlantic giant with a combined turnover in the region of £760m.

Salans HQ, London
Salans HQ, London

Senior management at the two firms are understood to have been discussing a tie-up since late last year and are close to a deal, according to a source close to the firms.

It is unclear what form the merger would take in terms of financial integration. SNR Denton itself is structured as a Swiss Verein, with one profit pool in the US and a separate one in Europe, the Middle East and Africa following the merger of City firm Denton Wilde Sapte and US firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in 2010 (26 May 2010).

SNR Denton’s recent combination and a lack of recent data from Salans make a precise calculation of the firms’ combined value difficult. But based on results for the first half of 2011-12, when the firm posted revenue of £317m (28 November 2011), SNR Denton should be in for full-year results of around £600m.

A tie-up with Salans – a €196.5m firm in 2010 (28 March 2011) – would create a firm with projected worldwide turnover of around £760m.

Salans has long been linked with a merger following a rocky time, especially in London, where it was hit by the resignation of seven partners and two consultants in the City in November as part of US firm Locke Lord’s London launch (7 November 2011). One of the partners has since joined CMS Cameron McKenna after originally planning to move to the Texan firm (13 February 2012).

Salans’ Paris practice is seen as much stronger than its London offering, and its international capacity is considered an attractive feature for a merger suitor.

A market commentator said: “[Salans is] just a very sub-standard hotchpotch of a practice with poor leadership. It’s like a poor man’s version of Baker & McKenzie. Paris is magic circle quality but London is very average.”

The firm elected litigator Smeetesh Kakkad as its London managing partner earlier this year, replacing Howard Cohen (16 January 2011). The firm is run internationally by Paris-based global managing partner Dariusz Oleszczuk (28 October 2010).

SNR Denton, meanwhile, has suffered a troubled year and a half since its merger, with profit dropping dramatically in the UK LLP in 2010-11 (7 February 2012). Profit per equity partner in the UK LLP also dropped 35 per cent in the same financial year (20 June 2011).

An SNR Denton spokesperson said: “We enjoy strong relationships with many law firms around the world. However, we never comment on rumours about specific discussions or our continuing efforts to enhance SNR Denton’s already robust global presence with locations in over 40 countries.”

Salans declined to comment.

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